Meet Fred-Hijnx Theatre

I spent my Monday afternoon interviewing a small puppet with a lot of personality. Everyone, meet Fred:

Fred’s new show, apty called Meet Fred, is touring with Hijinx theatre company (scroll down for more information)

Fred. (Photograph Johnathan Dunn)
Fred is a unique character, but with a story which is universal. As director Ben Pettit-Wade says during my chat with Fred ‘Fred always feels that the world is creating problems for him, but in a lot of situations there’s the potential that the outcome could be very different if Fred acted differently.’ Fred meanwhile is quick to blame others around him (and the director given half a chance) saying; ‘I always hope for the good things in life, or nice stuff but it’s probably safe to say that my hopes and expectations might be, how can I put this politely, confounded’. It’s clear that Fred and his director disagree on many things, Fred clearly a little frustrated at his life being taken over quite so fully. He even comments that he rarely gets out and about on tour, due to being put in a box by his director. However it’s clear none of that is going to stop Fred any time soon, and director or no world domination will surely follow….But I’ll come back to that. 
Meet Fred is, in the words of the puppet himself him as a bit of an everyman. Taking on situations that all of us encounter from time to time, from dating life, to dealing with government burarcracy. This last point forms some of the more serious undercurrents in Meet Fred, as Pettit-Wade explains: 
For I guess some of the difficulties that people face, especially with regards to some of the people that we work with at Hijinx theatre with a learning disability. Situations for example with the benefits systems, with people’s support being taken from them and the effect that has on a person. And we explore that to the extreme, but that extreme is a reality in a lot of cases.’
This is something actor Richard Newnham is keen to add as well, playing the character of the jobcentre employee making Fred’s life more difficult he says of his role; 

‘My scene is partly based on things we’ve gone through-like everyone has to go to the jobcentre and prove they’ve been looking for work and it’s so frustrating. I’ve been through it a lot. In this scene I’m on the other side, a bit of revenge and showing off what it’s like on the other side.’

Richard also provides the most apt description I’ve heard of this particulr breed of civil servant, saying ‘He’s a man who has everything and nothing all at once’. 

And Fred becomes a bit of a metaphor for the struggles everyone, and in particular some of the people Hijnx work for, go through on a regular basis. Fred himself is highly entertaining, but also gives us some serious things to reflect on as an audinece. 

But what then of the puppet himself? what’s next? Well so far he’s been using his new found fame as a platform for some superb Michael Jackson impersonations: 

But if musical fame doesn’t come calling (or in fact if it does) Fred shares his other ambitions: ‘Either a career in politics, setting up puppet rights, or stand up comedy. Actually I may combine the two.’ Fred is keen to show me his political knowledge offering a detailed response on the EU situation, not least the important issue of going on holiday being far easier in the EU. This line of questioning is cut short however when once again a disagreement breaks out, bringing up a few of Fred’s more unsavoury personal habits. Aparently Fred has been ‘self indulging a bit lately. And Ben offers him some sound advice: 

If you’re going to be an MP you’ll have to stop the wanking.’
Some might argue that’s a perfect fit for a career in politics. 
For that an further pearls of wisdom from Fred, you can find him on tour across Wales, more information on Hijinx’s website: Meet Fred

Also Recognised Awards from My Theatre Mates

I love an awards list, even more so I love an awards list that recognises talent overlooked elsewhere. Therefore it’s no surprise that I’m happy to share the #AlsoRecognised awards from MyTheatreMates. 
The Also Recognised Awards were launched last year with ten categories. In addition to Best Musical Direction, these include six that had been dropped by the WhatsOnStage Awards: 
  • Best Ensemble Performance. 
  • Best Solo Performance  
  • Best Shakespearean Production  
  • Best Original Music 
  • London Newcomer of the Year 
  • Theatre Event of the Year
They awards are designed to put the spotlight on the areas of theatre not recognised by other awards, or indeed where other awards haven’t caught up with the current world we live in-to that end awards for best twitter engagement reflect the engagement beyond the theatre of shows old and new. 
Most importantly to my mind is the inclusion of a bespoke category for musical theatre direction. Other awards tend to either overlook completely that this is a specialist skill that should be given it’s own spotlight. Continuing this trend of recognising the diverse blend of theatrical outputs, a new category for 2016 is Best Musical Cabaret. 
Nominations for the Also Recognised Awards have been drawn up by Shenton and Paddock, with input from Andrew Keates and Mike Dixon (the industry lobbyists who have been the driving force behind establishing creative parity for Musical Direction) The inclusion of people  working in the industry, and forging new ground in theatre every year is also really vital in pulling together awards that actually reflect and speak to audiences who go to see them. To that end as well lists were also compiled by  other members of the My Theatre Mates collective of independent theatre bloggers and commentators. Voting for the winners continues until Friday 25th March 2016. Results will be announced in early April. 

And so to get down to it, the nominees are….
Voting is now open for all categories at MyTheatreMates 
Best Musical Direction
·         Kyle Riabko – Close to You, Menier Chocolate Factory & Criterion Theatre
·         Matt Spencer-Smith – Beautiful, Aldwych Theatre
·         Michael Bradley – Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse
·         Nicholas Skilbeck – Gypsy, Savoy Theatre
·         Nigel Lilley – Bend It Like Beckham, Phoenix Theatre
·         Theo Jamieson – High Society, Old Vic Theatre
Best Original Music
·         Cyndi Lauper – Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre
·         David Yazbek – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Playhouse Theatre
·         Howard Goodall – Bend It Like Beckham, Phoenix Theatre
·         Michael John LaChiusa – See What I Wanna See, Jermyn Street Theatre
·         Michael Webborn & Daniel Finn – The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Landor Theatre
·         Ross Clark & Matthew Strachan – The White Feather, Union Theatre
Best Ensemble Performance
·         Barbarians – Tooting Arts Club
·         Bugsy Malone – Lyric Hammersmith
·         Carmen Disruption – Almeida Theatre
·         Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage – Out of Joint, Arcola Theatre
·         Grand Hotel – Southwark Playhouse
·         Songs for a New World – The St. James Theatre
Best Solo Performance
·         Derren Brown – Miracle, Palace Theatre
·         Lucy Roslyn – The State vs John Hayes, King’s Head
·         Michael Urie – Buyer & Cellar, Menier Chocolate Factory
·         Philip Bretherton – Tony’s Last Tape, Bridgehouse
·         [4]
·         Tanya Moodie – Joanne, Soho Theatre
·         Zoë Wanamaker – All On Her Own, Branagh Theatre Company, Garrick
Best Musical Cabaret – NEW CATEGORY
·         Alexandra Silber – Crazy Coqs
·         Desperate Divas – St James Studio
·         Frances Ruffelle – Crazy Coqs
·         Miss-Leading Ladies – The St. James Theatre Studio
·         Scott Alan & Cynthia Erivo – The St. James Theatre Studio
·         Shoshana Bean – Hippodrome Casino
London Newcomer of the Year
·         David Moorst – Violence & Son, Royal Court Upstairs
·         Diana Nneka Atuona (playwright) – Liberian Girl, Royal Court Upstairs
·         Jake Davies – Barbarians, Tooting Arts Club
·         Kyle Riabko – Close to You, Menier Chocolate Factory & Criterion Theatre
·         Lucy Penrose – Through the Mill, London Theatre Workshop
·         Natale Dew – Bend It Like Beckham, Phoenix Theatre
Best Shakespearean Production
·         As You Like It – National Theatre, Olivier
·         Henry V – RSC, Barbican Theatre
·         Henry V – Lazarus, Union Theatre
·         Measure for Measure – Young Vic
·         The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare’s Globe
·         The Winter’s Tale – Branagh Theatre Company, Garrick
Best Twitter Engagement
·         @BushTheatre – Bush Theatre
·         @curiousonstage – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Gielgud Theatre
·         @DonmarWarehouse – Donmar Warehouse
·         @MatildaMusical – Matilda The Musical, RSC, Cambridge Theatre
·         @New_Adventures – New Adventures
·         @PhantomOpera – The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre
Best Show Poster
·         Future Conditional – Old Vic
·         Hapgood – Hampstead Theatre
·         McQueen – St James & Theatre Royal Haymarket
·         Oppenheimer – RSC, Vaudeville Theatre
·         Showstopper – Apollo Theatre
·         The Mother F**ker with the Hat – National Theatre, Lyttelton
Best Show Trailer
·         Branagh Theatre Season – Garrick Theatre
·         Carrie – Southwark Playhouse
·         Golem – Trafalgar Studios
·         Husbands & Sons – National Theatre, Dorfman
·         Liberan Girl – Royal Court
·         Peter Pan Goes Wrong – Apollo Theatre
Theatre Event of the Year
·         Almeida Greeks season
·         Election night broadcast of James Graham’s The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse
·         Frenzy around Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet run at the Barbican
·         Large & tiny-scale Sweeney Todds running simultaneously in West End (ENO & Tooting Arts
·         Club)
·         Noma Dumezweni triumphing in Linda after 11th hour takeover at Royal Court

·         Opening of Kenneth Branagh’s year-long Branagh Theatre season
Voting is now open for all categories at MyTheatreMates